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Cretaceous Sea

Location: Upper Level (visible from below)

Hastings Museum features a 17-foot Xiphactinus and 30-foot Tylosaurus in the large lightwell at the center of the Museum.

One of the most feared creatures in Cretaceous Sea was the Tylosaurus, the largest mosasaur and dominant predator during the cretaceous period.

The 17-foot Xiphactinus features a mouth full of razor sharp teeth. This prehistoric fish looks fearsome but was sometimes lunch for the Tylosaurus!

This is a Xiphactinus fossil, which you can find next to the exhibit.

During the age of the dinosaurs 82 million years ago, Nebraska was covered with a great inland sea. One of the most feared creatures in that sea was the Tylosaurus, the largest mosasaur and dominant predator in the sea during the cretaceous period.

The Cretaceous Sea exhibit at Hastings Museum features a 30-ft. life-sized sculpture of a Tylosaurus, as well as a 17-foot replica of a Xiphactinus, a prehistoric fish.

This fascinating permanent exhibit shows what life was like in Nebraska at the time of the dinosaurs. It is the first exhibit of its kind in the central United States and was supported by the Hastings Museum Foundation’s capital campaign.

tylosaurus skull

A replica of a Tylosaurus skull is available for Museum visitors to examine up close.

The exhibit fills the upper portion of the large lightwell in the center of the Museum, focusing on the third floor – but is visible from below. To recreate a portion of the great inland sea, specially-designed panels surround the creatures, with special lights creating an underwater glow.

Educational panels about the time period and creatures surround the exhibit and help explain the Tylosaurus’ dominance in the cretaceous sea and how it could swiftly move through the water in search of prey.

The sculptures were created by award-winning paleo-artist Gary Staab, who was raised in Grand Island, Neb., and graduated from Hastings College.

The sculptures are full-scale models of what a Tylosaurus and Xiphactinus may have looked like in real life, drawn from Staab’s extensive knowledge of paleontology and his consultations with working scientists.

For Hastings Museum, Staab created a Tylosaurus proriger twisting and turning as if preparing to attack its prey – in this case, the Xiphactinus.